Interference Archive poster and CAMOC talk by elif çiğdem artan on autonomous archives presentation

CAMOC Workshop “Towards a City Museum Watch”, Lisbon, May 2019

With CAMOC friends at Roman Theater of Lisbon Museum.


Establishing Communities for Sustainability of Archival Materials

Knowledge production can only be achievable via archival materials. Today, as Jussi Parikka conceptualizes, “everybody is a mini archivist.” Our computers, smartphones, e-mail accounts, social media platforms, and also web browsers keep records of our daily activities. By claiming “we are what we collect, we collect what we are”, Elisabeth Kaplan (2000) interrogates the role of archivist in terms of shaping history. As archival record does only happen when individuals and organizations create and use them. In this sense, archiving is neither politically nor culturally neutral. As Randall C. Jimerson (2006) expresses, “[t]he role of the archivist is crucial and powerful.” The essential idea of archiving is intensely engaged with discussions held around memory and history. As a mechanism of repository, archive, is based upon a simultaneous inclusion and exclusion: What to be remembered, and what to be forgotten? From the perspective of Foucauldian discourse analysis, archive determines both the spoken and unspoken. Today, archives started to claim social justice by putting their focus on documenting and protecting the rights to citizens. Hence, the classical approach to archives, as gatekeepers for preserving rare documents, is replaced by collective working within the concept of ‘Living Archive.’ Susan Pell (2015) conceptualizes living archives as learning centers challenging the official narratives. They are often organized as ‘community archives’ concentrating on particular social causes, politic, socio-cultural, ethnical, religious and sexual identities. Indeed, a community transforms an archive into a living space by applying ‘collective history-making.’ Community archives provide free access to information for all, and ask for their involvement in various levels: Material donations, fundraising, staffing, cataloguing, publications, translation, curating exhibitions, film screenings, and public events, etc. In this framework, this study seeks to answer the following question: “How can city museums learn from community archives regarding sustainable public engagement?” The workshop aims to open a floor for discussing how to target various groups regarding diversity in archival materials. Consequently, it is intended to examine the differentiation between decolonizing a museum and diversity in a museum coming along with the question of a city museum for the city, or about the city?

Keywords: Community Archives, Audience Development, Crowd-Cataloguing, Sustainability

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